Thursday, March 30, 2017

Failure of health care bill proof American Republic is alive and well

Many have seen the failure of the American Health Care Act, which has just been withdrawn because of lack of support in the US House of Representatives, as the first major test of Donald Trump's presidency. The reality is that even though Trump promised in his election campaign to repeal and replace President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the new bill was Speaker Paul Ryan's baby much more than Trump's, so its defeat probably won't cause Trump any significant political harm.

I think the bill's defeat is a victory for America for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the bill itself was universally considered to be unworkable and it certainly did not meet Trump's promise of "affordable coverage for everyone, lower deductibles and health care costs [and] better care." More importantly, it demonstrated to all those who have been painting Trump's victory as the end of the American Republic, that nothing could be further from the truth. The separation of powers is alive and well and Congress just exercised its power to cast out a proposed new law that the president supported. 

One of the great characteristics of the American system of government is that its participants do not slavishly act according to their party affiliations. Republicans may control the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency, but that doesn't mean a Republican bill has an easy ride to become law. Here in New Zealand, our MPs tend to toe the party line, as dictated by the prime minister and his cabinet, far more than they do in America.

The recent decisions by the federal courts to stay Trump's immigration orders is further evidence that reports of the death of the Republic are premature. America may have its problems, but a lack of democracy and checks on power are not among them.

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